On Hildur Gudnadottir’s Without Sinking

by Thomas Brett

One way to make a claim for your innate listening acumen is to figure out which recordings in your collection you return to again and again.  Which ones reward repeated listenings?  A recording that does just this–and not merely offer itself up for one more remix (any recording can claim that status)–is probably pretty special (to you at least).

Icelandic cellist Hildur Gudnadottir’s Without Sinking (Touch 2009) is one of these special recordings (for me at least). It is, for the most part, comprised of overdubbed cellos (with some subtle electronics and processing thrown in by the composer).  The textures are thick yet transparent, the timbre gritty yet gossamer, the harmonies haunting, the rhythms insistent.  (There are some further electronic and processing contributions on the album by Johann Johannsson, Skúli Sverrisson and  Hildur’s father Guðni Franzson.)

What kind of music is this?  Drone?  Acoustic ambient?  Contemporary classical?  Experimental?

In an interview, Gudnadottir describes her music by making analogies the open sky and cloud formations she’s seen looking out from airplane windows:

“I wanted to have open space for single notes and let them breathe, like single clouds in a clear sky.  As a contrast I also wanted to create denser and heavier compositions which were more thundercloud like.  I like the way clouds form, how many tiny droplets can form such dense forms and then slowly evaporate into thin string-like forms.”

Below is a track from Without Sinking called “Erupting Light.”

You can learn more about Hildur at her website.

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